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Supreme Court declines to hear 'So help me God' lawsuit

Michael Newdow, whose previous First Amendment challenge sought to strike 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance, tried to block the use of 'So help me God' in the inauguration ceremony.

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The US Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up an atheist challenge to the use of the phrase, “So help me God,” at the conclusion of the presidential oath of office during a president-elect’s inauguration.

The lawsuit initially asked a federal judge to block Chief Justice John Roberts from reciting “So help me God” while administering the oath in January 2009 to President-elect Obama. It also sought an order preventing two members of the clergy from conducting an invocation and benediction during the 2009 inauguration.

A federal judge threw the suit out, ruling that the atheists lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the litigation.

The complaint was later amended to seek an injunction against religious references in future inaugurations in 2013 and 2017.

At issue in the case was whether recitation of the phrase “So help me God” by the chief justice amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government, in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.

Neither the federal judge nor the federal appeals court reached the establishment clause issue. Instead, the case was dismissed because the courts determined the atheists lacked legal standing.

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